Andrea Wong Exits Top Post at Lifetime

After nearly three years at the helm, Andrea Wong has agreed to part ways with Lifetime.

Wong, who joined the programmer in April 2007 as president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services, will serve out the remainder of her three-year contract in an advisory capacity.

While Wong’s exit was buried in the late-Friday news cycle, the move caught few industry observers flat-footed. Insiders expected that her days were numbered as early as August 2009, when Disney, Hearst Corporation and NBC Universal announced that A&E Television Networks would acquire the Lifetime portfolio.

Upon completion of the deal, Lifetime and sister service Lifetime Movie Network were folded into the AETN family of basic-cable channels (A&E, History, Bio), leaving Wong to report to president and CEO Abbe Raven.

In an e-mail to Lifetime staffers, Wong said that her decision to let her contract run out was a byproduct of the A&E takeover. “As with all acquisitions and mergers, change is inevitable, and certainly that has been the case for us over the last several months,” she wrote. “Now that my role in the acquisition of Lifetime by AETN is concluded, and the integration of the organizations including a more streamlined management structure is nearly complete, I believe that it is the right time for me to step down. It is my plan to move on in the coming weeks after assisting in any way I can with the transition.”

Raven issued a brief statement Friday afternoon, thanking Wong for her “many contributions to Lifetime,” and wishing her luck in her new endeavors.

After making an early splash with the scripted drama Army Wives and the acquisition of the reality strip Project Runway, Wong’s Lifetime began to falter in 2009. The network lost 20 percent of its prime time audience, averaging 1.19 million viewers, down from 1.49 million the previous year. The core demos took a hit as well, as viewers 18-49 dropped 17 percent to 509,000, while women 18-49 and 25-54 were down 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Before landing the Lifetime job, Wong had served as ABC’s executive vp of alternative programming, specials and late-night. There she had oversight of younger-skewing reality fare like Dancing With the Stars, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and The Bachelor, as well as the late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Wong joined ABC in 1993, as a researcher for ABC News PrimeTime Live. From there she moved steadily up the ladder, ascending from an executive assistant position to her ultimate role as the head of reality/specials/late-night, which she assumed in May 2004.

As Wong transitions out, Raven and her team have spent the last several weeks reviewing the network’s programming strategy. As one might expect, Lifetime executive vp, entertainment, JoAnn Alfano has been an active voice in those conversations and is staying on in her role as the chief programmer.